Archive of ‘D-I-Y’ category

the wool chevron pillow and our amped up wine budget

our couch is in terrible shape and should really be replaced.  but at the end of the day wine often seems like a more urgent purchase…especially at the end of a wild, couch-jumping, food smearing, runny nosed day.  at those moments, it becomes terribly clear that a new couch would only be jumped on, smeared on and booger-ed on.  the wine helps with this rationale.  and that, my friends, is how it all comes full circle.

wool chevron pillow

but, a new pillow!  well, that is totally sensible and a manageable little happy project. so I used some of the luxurious fine wool my grandmother gave me to make a plucky little chevron pillow.   the cat is thrilled, can you tell?

cat meets new wool pillow

the pillow is made by piecing together triangles to form the chevrons.  I kept the red and brown in a random pattern so the pillow didn’t get too stuffy. I like the look of the wool but the seams did get pretty bulky and then things didn’t line up perfectly. but, I am perfectly happy with the level of imperfection in this little pillow or I’m trying to be at least…I’m moving past glaring at the wonky seams every time I see the pillow.
wool chevron pillow full

I installed a bottom zipper, the invisible kind. I actually re-used this zipper, it used to live with an old pillow that was completely falling apart.  so, I’m happy it found a new home and it means that my new pillow costs a total of nothing…not a thing!
invisible zipper on wool pillowyou know what that means, right?  yep.  more wine!

healing arts

recently a friend got sick.  and sadly, it was not the easy kind of sick.  it was the cancer kind of sick.  the uckiest, scariest, most I-feel-helpless kind of sick.  and in my next breath, I am happy to report that it was caught early and all signs post-surgery are incredibly optimistic.  for all intents and purposes, her system is free of the big c.  but, before the good news came there was much hand-wringing and so I did what I do….I sent her some hand sewn items (as well as this highly-recomended book, in case you are wondering).

one of the hand sewn things I was most excited about was this pillow with eight pockets filled with eight clothespins.  sounds a bit odd but let me explain.

she and I have been friends since college and we have maintained a friendship with a circle of eight women.  as a group of women, we have been through a lot.  a whole lot more than I ever expected when we left college behind.  and, it has brought us close emotionally but we all live pretty far apart and we see each other quite rarely.  so, we like to say that we are ‘in each others pockets’….heading into a big interview or, say, into the operating room.  we are just there, in the pocket.  so, the eight pockets in this pillow make up a spot for each of us as she heads into her recovery.

on each clothespin I wrote a word, chosen by each person, and slipped them in the pockets.   the words are meant to be a wish for her future and for her recovery.  one clothespin had no word, it was for her to write what she wanted on it.

they sit so nicely, our little dreams, waiting to help her through.

along the same lines…harnessing the power of a word….I made a banner for her home with the word heal.  I got this idea from a friend here in Jersey whose mother-in-law battled cancer as well.

it’s amazing to me the power of words, sometimes.  when you feel vulnerable it can be something to hang onto and believe in.  right now, I believe our messages of healing, serenity and renewal will help her recovery.   she will get through this and we, as a group of friends, will get through this.  it will just be another thing we all did while in each others pockets.  take that cancer.

postal love

this may be the week that I make good on my vow to one day hug the mail carrier. a whole box of goodies arrived from my amazing seamstress/upholsterer grandmother. I always love receiving things from her because I am certain they carry along with them her great expertise.

I am so thrilled that she thought of me to receive these wonderful pieces of her past.  this is just a sampling, the box was chock full of vintage items like this. she and my grandfather made furniture and ran a custom furniture-making shop out of a house next door to their own.  in addition, my grandmother made much of the family’s clothes.  who knows what great things were imagined for all of these things.

and as if that wasn’t enough a wonderful package arrived from a friend [check out her wonderful knitting focused blog] filled with bag patterns and even a few of her handmade goodies.  she was having one of those honest I -am-not-really-going-to-make-this moments and I was the lucky recipient of her de-clutter.

she tossed in one of her wonderful knit sweater ornaments (aren’t they amazing?!) and a hot drink cozy.  uh-hmm, I am a lucky lady.  and, it all comes at a great time as I am busy sewing away in preparation for an exciting festival in a week and half.  this feels like a little whisper in the studio….go! make!

lucky day

 as a fabric lover and sewing teacher there is always a small part of me that is oh-so-tempted to design my own fabric. to get it just right, ya know?

so when I saw this book from the people behind one of my favorite textile blogs True Up, I knew I wanted it.  but, I played it a little too cool and it wasn’t in my stocking on Christmas morning…darn that Santa! so, you can only imagine how excited I was to find out that I won it from Christina at A Few Scraps.  and, it is just as fabulous as I imagined it was going to be. it includes great coverage on different fabric types in general and thorough, thorough discussion on the different ways to make your own fabric from stamp-making to screen printing to digital printing.  it’s very inspiring.


and, because Christina is just plain awesome she even threw in a fat quarter of the first fabric she designed.  it’s called ‘selvedge on steroids’, she made it on spoonflower, which is one of the digital fabric printing studios.  (one warning: it is incredible and if you click on the link and head over the spoonflower, I cannot be responsible for the many lost, happy hours that may result.)  isn’t the fabric perfect!! especially given how much time I spend discussing selvedge! now…the find the perfect thing to make with it!

the aprons

a close friend of mine asked me to make match-y aprons for four of her dear, far-flung friends and I jumped at the chance.  the great thing about taking on a commission like this is that I got to hear all about the challenges and joys these women have had in the past year and carried all those stories in my mind as I was sewing away.



my friend chose ty pennington’s block print style fabric for the aprons, which is so homey but at the same time still looks fresh.  I got it here.  the apron is a pattern I made by mixing the bottom of an Anna Maria Horner apron pattern and the top part of one from Lotta Jansdotter….and a few other personal alterations and tweaks.  I just love an elegant neckline and prominent waistline with a full apron bottom so I threw them together.



each apron got it’s own drawstring bag…in case they ever get together for some serious baking.  I love aprons because there is hardly a milestone in this life that doesn’t involve food in some way.  may these aprons be the hardworking splatter-catchers for a whole host of future joys and challenges!

handmade holidays :: kool-aid play silks

these were the one mama-made gift the boys found in their stockings Christmas morning.  they are play silks, simple scarf-sized pieces of silk dyed in different colors. as a toy, they have limitless potential—so far in our house they have been a way to carry cars, a cape, an umbrella in a fake rainstorm, water under a boat adventure, something to float in the air while you are dancing and on and on.  we had these growing up in a shiny, metallic fabric and we must have used them for everything.  probably the hardest working toy in our house back then.  in a boutique kid’s shop these can get expensive.  so, I was thrilled when I came across this tutorial that goes step by step through how to make them with the food safe dye available in every grocery store in the country–kool-aid.  yup.  it dyes more than just tongues.  I didn’t read the directions closely on first read so I didn’t grab enough packets of kool-aid when I was at the store. as a result, the colors came out a bit week and mottled as you can see:


I was especially worried that the yellow would become almost a cream color so I scoured the internet for natural dyes (once I get going on an activity I really don’t have the patience to stop and pick up missing supplies, it leads down lots of interesting roads).  I discovered that turmeric is a great natural dye and we have tons of it.  so, I boiled a big pot of turmeric water for 30 minutes or so before adding the kool-aid and the silk scarf.  the color turned out fantastically vibrant, I am thrilled with the amazing sunshine look. I was less excited about the smell that resulted from combining turmeric and lemonade flavored kool-aid.  in fact, I was fairly certain I had managed to somehow poison myself and rushed around opening windows.


{the silk goes into a pot of boiling water with the dye}

but, it was worth it, don’t you think? look at that color! I got my white silk scarves from dharma trading company, which has everything dyeable under the sun. for anyone interested in doing your own color dying, they are incredible.

well, I’m finally at the end of all my handmade holidays.  from here on out it’s all about looking forward onto the horizon of 2012! which, quite frankly, is looking awfully bright and involves lots of sewing.  I do still do that every once in a while!

handmade holidays :: the silly putty game

the boys and I worked together to make a gift for some of their little friends.  we made silly putty and then bagged up a few plastic critters and I printed out instructions for an easy ‘hide and seek’ game…hide the plastic things in the putty for someone else to find (it passes as a game in our house despite its simplicity). 

the silly putty went into—what else!—jars!  (between snow-globe making and the mason jar sewing kits I’ve become something of a jar enthusiast. I can hardly bear to recycle them anymore because all I see is potential.)

as a result of this gift I’ve made a lot of silly putty.  it is so simple.  basically, just mix together equal parts liquid starch and regular glue.  now, after making four different batches I have learned a few things that might be helpful about how exactly to mix it.  for starters, I pour the glue in first and then have a big serving fork ready to sort stir while I pour in the liquid starch second.  the two bind together really quickly but they don’t completely cohere.  so, I mix them together with my hands as much as I can (I find that the starch seems to have a harder time mixing).  after I mix with my hands it basically looks like this:

 that’s when I let it sit for 30-40 minutes.  then, I mix it with my hands again and if it it coming together a bit I try to stretch it out as I’m doing below:

 if it’s not able to pull into a thin membrane like this, let it sit for longer.  I stretch the whole batch out and that seems to help it really come together so that when it sits it becomes one big glump.  it smells a bit but it really works.  I have encouraged everyone to wash their hands after playing with it because it leaves a starch residue on hands and fingers.  but if you can get past that, it fits the category of fun, cheap and easy.

handmade holidays :: mason jar sewing kit

I snuck in a little crafty making this past holiday…a mason jar sewing kit.  yup! pretty amazing.  as soon as I saw this fantastic tutorial from momtastic  I was obsessed and had to make one.

I fell in love with the oh-so-sweet idea of a portable sewing kit. because despite how modern and hip sewing becomes it still carries with it the legacy of mothers, aunts, grandmothers, great grandmothers and a handful of fathers and grandfathers, too.  there is no denying.  in my sewing classes (when we are not sewing, or course) we are exchanging information, discussing kids, gossiping, or looking to each other for support and advice.  as a friend pointed out, that is probably exactly what the age-old sewing circles were all about. she also believes old school sewing circles might have just formed the foundation for early feminism.  perhaps, it’s true. either way,  sewing connects people and has for generations.  all of that is a long way of saying, it might be a good idea to have a sewing kit that is handy and ready to travel.

the only real making involved in this gift was transforming the jar top into a pincushion, which the tutorial illustrates beautifully. then I stuck fun semi-retro sewing supplies into the jar–a diaper pin for pulling elastic through casing, hand-sewing needles, plastic flower buttons, flat head pins, a tape measure, and I made the sewing weight. it all fits in a jar….and that is ridiculously cute if you ask me.


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